The First Black Sheep Acres Exhibit – Closing Event Saturday, June 23, 6-9pm

Steve Soltis at Black Sheep Acres

Black Sheep Acres, a sister project of Trouser House, is proud to present its first Artist-in-Residence exhibition, closing this Saturday, June 23, from 6-9pm.  The pop-up installation, titled Recent Works & Bad Inventions, includes sculpture and paintings by New Orleans-based artist Steve Soltis. The exhibit is held at 2448 N. Villere Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The collection of works was made by Soltis while he was in residence and working at Black Sheep Acres this Spring. Check out this excerpt from the curatorial statement, written by artist Chad Spicer:

The artist’s sculptural assemblages are constructed out of turn-of-the-century tools and found objects, gathered from an on-site barn. Assembled into off-kilter, absurdist inventions, these objects stand at the ready, eager to ensnare their user into injury, guffaws, and head scratching. The illusion of use wanes with inspection, begetting a sense of danger and comedy…visions of oneself trying to drive a nail with a spring necked hammer – or – to pitch hay with a chain handled pitchfork illustrate the tongue-in-cheek conceptual notion of Soltis’ sculptures.

The paintings work as companions to the artist’s found object assemblages. Hanging amidst wood and rusted metal objects, these oil on canvas works provide both conceptual dimension and express the artist’s intention while at Black Sheep Acres. Soltis’ earth-toned oil paintings depict bar patrons, passed relatives, Cherokee ghosts, and self-portraits–expressing both the artist’s psyche and evoking a universal sense of nostalgia. The quietude of Black Sheep Acres has allowed Soltis to flourish and the works made during his residency express the maturity and humor of this mid-career artist.”

Soltis has exhibited in countries across the globe, featuring solo exhibitions in Germany, Greece, Spain, and the United States, among others.

The studio at Black Sheep Acres

June 9 – 23rd, 2012

2448 North Villere Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70117

Opening: 6PM – 9PM, June 9
Closing: 6PM – 9 PM, June 23
All other hours by appointment @ (504) 215-5135

Emily Morrison
4018 Muddy Springs Road
Magnolia, Mississippi 39652
telephone: (512) 626-3653

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The Trouser House project grows!

Planting the seeds for future harvests

An initial drawing from my Black Sheep Acres sketchbook

After a long (but warm) winter, Trouser House is pleased to announce the next iteration of the project, including an expanded farming initiative and an imminent gallery and education space on St. Claude and Independence Avenues in the Bywater.

Since closing the gallery and urban farm on St. Claude and Mazant last December, the Trouser House team has been working with a fine group of patrons and artists to develop the next steps for the project. I am thrilled to announce the organization is growing by leaps and bounds, and will launch new art, farming, and education initiatives over the course of the next twelve months. I have to warn you, I can be a bit long-winded, so pour a cup of coffee and curl up with your cat (or soft spring chick) before you read this letter.

Farming, Art, and the Homestead

Black Sheep Cabin

In December, James and I journeyed 90 miles north to visit a ten-acre plot in Magnolia, Mississippi. The property is owned by Trouser House patrons Mary Ellen Burns and Christopher Brown and includes 10 acres of piney woods, a quaint cabin, and an endless sense of possibility. After walking the trails and seeing the space, we knew this was a place where we could imagine, grow, and build. Enlivened by the fresh country air, we returned to New Orleans and immediately called a meeting of fellow Trouser Housians. After spending time at this retreat and enjoying countless homemade meals at the Brown-Burns home (especially Mary Ellen’s Asian-style grilled shrimp with fresh key lime marinade), we formulated the conceptual basis for the project and began to lay the framework for implementing our ideas at the newly formed Black Sheep Acres, a sister project of Trouser House.

The impetus for Black Sheep Acres is rooted in the benefit of the rural retreat. Through the act and space of retreat, Black Sheep Acres will provide visitors with a space—both physical and mental—in which participants can investigate and experience new forms of creative expression. The retreat is not an abandonment of social challenges, political opposition, or cultural dead ends, but a temporary condition that will provide the mental clarity required for the generation and sharing of new ideas.

The Road Less Traveled…Black Sheep Acres Entrance

Currently, Black Sheep Acres is home to a motley crew of visual artists, designers, chefs, chickens, growers, a dog, and Scratch the bunny. Over the past five months, we have collectively scrubbed, sorted, and cleared the property, preparing the space for upcoming events, festivals, farming initiatives, and residency opportunities. While we build, you can follow the progress of Black Sheep Acres on the Black Sheep Acres flickr page, and by checking the Black Sheep Acres website.

Ultimately, Black Sheep Acres will engage in an ongoing dialogue with Trouser House in the city, resulting in an unparalleled urban-rural exchange. So, what about the city? Well, I’m about to tell you, so pour another cup and fluff your feathers.

Art in the Bywater

On a sunny January day, I met real estate developer Maurice Slaughter and his brother Jimmy at Elizabeth’s restaurant on the levy. Maurice, a broad-smiled fellow, casually carried the conversation, talking about his work with St. Claude Main Street, the importance of holistic community development, and how much he loves the creole mustard sauce that comes with Elizabeth’s signature Boudin balls. I was particularly impressed by his ideas for the development of St. Claude Avenue and how he explained his commitment to creating a space that is vibrant, safe, and filled with art. After lunch, we traveled a few short blocks to Maurice’s home, which is tucked in among several other properties he has renovated. While there, we talked about his relationship with New Orleans, and how he and his wife fell in love with the place over 15 years ago when they began restoring homes in the Bywater. I also met his right-hand-man, John Andrews, who has restored several of Maurice’s properties. Even though it was our first meeting–and I had not even seen the inside of the future Trouser House–on that day, I knew that I would work with Maurice to develop the new Trouser House gallery space.

The future of Trouser House at St. Claude and Independence Avenues

Fast forward a few months to today where renovation is slated to begin at the new gallery space on St. Claude and Independence Avenues. The restoration project is ambitious and carries an extensive schedule which will unfold over the course of the summer and fall, with the grand opening slated for late winter 2013. In tandem, Trouser House has an equally ambitious line-up of exhibitions, events, and programs for the new space. You can stay updated on the progress of the renovation and upcoming events by following us on the Trouser House facebook page and subscribing to the Trouser House website (the subscription tab is on the right hand panel of the home page).

Local communities, local schools

A student at Marrero Middle School harvests carrots grown as part of the Spring semester Permaculture class.

The Trouser House education initiative, carried out in conjunction with Young Audiences of Louisiana has drawn to a close for the 2012 school year. Students in the Permaculture program experienced a fruitful spring harvest–pulling carrots, beets, squash, snap and pole beans from their garden. This semester, students launched a vermicomposting program that has produced some of the finest worm castings this side of the Mississippi. And, finally, several of the students have perfected their pickling skills, submerging everything from carrots to beets to green beans in vinegar, spices, and salt.

Summer programming will commence in June and educators can expect the launch of the new Trouser House curriculum portal just in time for fall semester planning. As always, I am available to teachers and administrators that would like more information on permaculture classes and lesson plans. Feel free to email me for education information at

Looking forward, I plan to increase education efforts, both in the city and at Black Sheep Acres. In New Orleans, I hope to focus education efforts on the schools surrounding the future location of the Trouser House gallery, including KIPP Academy (Frederick Douglas High School), Arise Academy, and Drew Elementary. Again, I am always interested and available to educators and community members with experience and enthusiasm for the implementation of sustainable programs at these schools. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The Walnut Shell

So, that’s it…in a rather large nutshell. 2012 has been a plentiful year for the development of Trouser House and Black Sheep Acres and I am grateful to everyone that has generously provided their time, money, and general good will to the project. If you are interested in becoming involved with the continued growth of Trouser House and Black Sheep Acres in any way, please contact me by mail, phone, carrier pigeon, or St. Bernard and please continue to visit our various interweb resources to get updates on Black Sheep Acres and Trouser House. I close with a short excerpt from my journal, written on December 2, 2011, two days after the closing of Trouser House on St. Claude and Mazant. Looking back, I recognize the importance of letting go. But letting go is not always easy. I hope these words will be helpful for anyone feeling strained in New Orleans and elsewhere–they are meant to inspire and invigorate…

I live in the mouth of the Mississippi.
Every day.
With an oyster’s grip, I bubble through loamy undertow.

Above ground, I walk atop buckled sidewalks and reside in leaning structures. The ghost of Tennessee Williams whispers in my ear and I follow the tracks of the usurped Houma Indian. Perched in the jaws of the mighty river, I have drowned, built an ark, and learned to row with toothpicks.

Artist Chad Spicer at Black Sheep Farm

Special thanks to the following people who have devoted countless hours, support, and resources to the project since December 2011 (from infinity, and beyond!): James Taylor, Mary Ellen Burns, Christopher Brown, Roger Ruiz, Steve Soltis, Chad Spicer, Joann Amlin, Danny Jones, Tristen Amlin-Jones, Maurice Slaughter, Martha Maloney, Wendy Morrison, and Liz Morrison. None of this is possible without you…

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Artfully AWARE at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Mark your calendars for a special Trouser House presentation at the New Orleans Museum of Art this Friday, February 3 from 5-10pm. The event is hosted by Artfully AWARE–an organization that promotes international awareness through art education. This weekend, Trouser House will present work by New Orleans-based artist Margot Herster and students from Marrero Middle School.

With this exhibit students have responded to a selection of works from After You’ve Been Burned by Hot Soup You Blow in Your Yogurt—a multi-media installation by Herster. The work in this series explores how photography shapes our reaction to emotionally charged environments–focusing on the relationship between detainees at Guantanamo Bay and their families overseas.

The selection of Herster’s archive comprises a series of photographs of detainee family members along with their personal correspondence, offering a deeply sentimental and unique look into the lives of people from the Middle East. These intimate stories tell the tales of detainees with everyday family woes, dreams for marriage, and connection to the landscape they call home.

For Artfully AWARE, students from Marrero Middle School have made a series of “portraits” in response to Herster’s work. Each “portrait” includes an image that represents the student’s community and a text-based piece that describes an important element of the place they call home. The exercise and resulting installation provides students with an awareness of the similarities and differences between two communities that are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

Artfully AWARE will be held at the New Orleans Museum of Art on Friday, February 3 from 5-10pm.

from Pictures from Home, Margot Herster (2004/2011)

from Pictures from Home, Margot Herster (2004-2011)

Still from: The Landscapes, Margot Herster 2006/2011

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